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Opinion / We The People

“Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death!”

We recently asked AMAC Facebook fans to tell us their favorite quotes concerning liberty, patriotism, and our great Nation.  In just a few short hours, we received nearly 500 responses, and many indicated that Patrick Henry’s, “Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death!” quote is their personal favorite.  As promised, today we offer Patrick Henry’s inspiring speech, delivered to the Virginia Convention at St. John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia on March 23, 1775, in its entirety.  Following this speech, and in large part because of it, Patrick Henry’s resolution to organize a militia in Virginia was unanimously adopted.  We hope you enjoy reading this important piece of American history as much as we do.

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them?

Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free — if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained — we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable — and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

–      Patrick Henry

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Kevin Pell

Thank you for posting this speech. All these so called brilliant minds in Washington cannot even come close to the wisdom of the God fearing and liberty loving men such as Patrick Henry. I say press on, keep the flames of freedom burning and NEVER GIVE UP! Remember the price that was paid for our freedom, never forget those before us. I would rather die on my feet that live on my knees.

Michael Halper

As a Vietnam veteran, I believed that fighting for your country was as close to what Mr. Henry said “Give me liberty or give me death “. I am proud to be an American, and I will defend my country to the death.

Patrick j. castille

Patrick Henry was a great American who was ahead of his time. Mist people don’t realize the brilliance of our founding fathers. They knew the problems we would face. They were much smarter than the people we have in office today. They wanted to help this great nation get on it’s feet in a proper way, not to take our right’s away. That was a great speech by Mister Henry and I agree with his statement 100%. ” give me liberty, or give me death”!!!!

Gina Vaughan

I would that the people in power today were as passionate as Patrick Henry. While the speech in it’s entirety is a bit lengthy and difficult for many to digest, I am pleased that many many of our countrymen know and declare his closing sentence…” give me liberty, or give me death’.

Alice Klobukowski

With instant communication, it’s much easier to learn about the flaws in our leaders. I wonder how Mr. Henry would appear with our scrutiny today. Patrick Henry was certainly a great patriot. My family lore says we are related to him. We certainly love our country as he did.

Thomas Paschal

Ted Cruz?? Please do a little research..There are a couple that rate with this speech, Paul, Lee and a couple more, let us not be confused or twist the realities, if ANYONE in Congress votes opposite of our Constitution, they are not representative of the majority of the people, PERIOD!!!

Christine LaValle

Twenty-first century America has become numb to the valiant spirits of liberty. We must find those same spirits within ourselves !

ElectricPilgrim.com

Our country is in the throes of a new challenge to our freedom! Whether most believe it or not, our basic premise of freedom of belief is being ignored, debased, rejected, and manipulated to the point of making it entirely legal of us being persecuted, humiliated, and maybe even imprisoned for the worship of God, Jesus Christ, and the Word of God that some of us hold dear! Our Godly heritage is being destroyed by those who have no heart or desire to understand what Godliness truly is! Our great country was founded on solid Godly principles and standards, from God’s own Word, that are now being called antiquated and unjust by the same people that have no understanding of what Truth, Liberty, and Peace really mean! If we continue in the direction we are headed, it won’t be long before we are under the tyranny of a Godless Government… Read more »

charles mobley

We need more people like Patrick Henry TODAY!77

peggy

While I am proud to be an American, I have looked and listened to the events that have concerned so many people as well as myself. The government is supposed to be For the people, By the People but it seems that only a selected few have any say so at all. Our country use to be one of the most Popular countries in the world. We’ve lost respect and trust from other countries because of the way things are being handled. We have great people in our country with true love and loyalty for America and it’s people. The time has come to change what we will accept from our politians , especially our RIGHT to worship God and not lose the right to pray in public. No other religion that I know of has this ban.

Donna Arthur

I stand in the same position as Patrick Henry, and in the same opinion as he expressed in his eloquent speech. Americans need to stand together now before we are in chains and the country is no more. God Bless America and the patriots still willing to fight for her (and my) ideals.

Vincent Isted

This is the first time I have seen or read this speech. In the words of Patrick Henry…”GIVE ME LIBERTY. OR GIVE ME DEATH”. We as a people are at a crossroads in history once again. We must unite as one and stand up for oirselvs and for our posterity. If we do not we will be nothing more than slabes to a government who wants nothing more tjan absoulte power over us, in order to control us, to brake our sprit. I am an AMERICAN, A FREE MAN and I intend to stay that way.

Wayne

A sentiment Patrick Henry stated equates to this on the concept of political correctness: If I keep my opinions to myself through fear of offending someone, then I am guilty of treason towards my country, and to all that I believe in. He also mentions that the concept of hope is an excuse for men to not actually fix problems, as in “I hope someone will fix this nation’s problems.” It’s not enough to just ‘hope’. If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. What can you do to ‘help’ fix this nation’s problems? Don’t just sit there and ‘hope’. Democrats have claimed that if criminal activity occurs in government and if they are not directly involved it that activity, that it is not their responsibility to expose that criminal activity. If you or I had been aware of say, the Bostom Marathon… Read more »

Kathy Burris

No matter what is going on I am proud to be an American and for our Founding Fathers. We are fighting the same hard fight and must stand together – Never Give Up!!

Charles Taylor

The first time I have ever seen this speech in it’s entirety and now understand what he said and why he said the statement at the end. Our great nation is now in the same situation we were in with England in 1775 but the enemy is our own people. People who are supposed to be leaders of this country. People who stand for those unable to stand for themselves or are tired of standing, shouting at our government to lighten our burdens yet they make life more arduous with more laws and regulations. We are told that we must do this and that and we cannot lie to our government, yet they are allowed to lie to us and we are not supposed to question these lies? When questioned, they talk in circles and never answer the question and when asked the question again they tell us that they… Read more »

Jess

There is actually 2 versions to Mr. Henry’s speech. The one in the church with Thomas Jefferson present and the other was given, I racking my brain and I can’t remember. When I find it it will be posted. But the content of both are almost identical. With only slight variations. But regardless it is one of the greatest speeches given in history. Every school, should make it mandatory reading. It is almost chilling to think that we have almost reverted back to where it all started. Are we soon to become subjects again? Or can we maintain the roll of a citizen? 237 years down the drain.

Mona Fredrick

I had alway thought the ‘Give me Liberty or give my Death’ statement was just a boisterous political statement.
But after reading the entire speech, that you so graciously supplied, I now realize it is a calm, fitting, direct summation of a very truthful and frightful state of affairs of our Nation then. The equally frightful reality is our Nation is in the same sad position yet today. I confess I have hoped everything would work out alright on it’s own. This is not happening. We all need to speak up, with our strength coming from God, that we too deservingly want the USA to be a Land of Liberty and Freedom!

TimVa

Read it with the passion for which it was meant and the way it was given by Patrick Henry. If you substitute Washington for Boston, congress for parliament, President for King, etc., it will make the hair stand up on your neck. I have written both of my Virginia senators and asked them to once again be mindful of our proud heritage and not be sheep following the herd in DC. There are so many followers there and so few leaders that are unafraid to be the stand up person.

Bob Golden

When I was in elementary school we had to memorize the “Gentlemen may cry peace,peace” part. I have never forgotten it.

Mary Bartlett

Both sides in today’s political debates could site this great speech for their cause. What seems to get lost in the discussions is that legislating the taking away someone’s rights is the same as imposing your beliefs on opposite thinking people. We are ALL Americans!